Home > Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)(16)

Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)(16)
Author: Christine Feehan

“You went against how many Swords with eighteen men?”

Steele wanted to curse, and he did—in his own language so she wouldn’t know what he was saying. Yeah, there were eighteen members of Torpedo Ink, but they hadn’t fought that fight alone. There had been others working with them, including Jackson Deveau, the deputy sheriff. If he told her that, came clean and was honest, it would negate everything he said.

He took a breath. It was important to tell her the truth no matter the cost. He wanted a relationship. A partnership. He had to treat Breezy with the respect he gave his club, even if the price was that he looked bad to her. “It wasn’t just Torpedo Ink. There were others, men and women Evan Shackler and the Swords had done things to. We were still very much outnumbered, but there were others with us.” She would never know just how hard it was to tell her the truth.

Those green eyes hadn’t moved from his face. He felt a little bit like she was seeing inside, into those dark, ugly places he didn’t want her to know about. The tip of her tongue darted out to moisten her lower lip reminding him of all the times that tongue had moved over his body, taking him straight to paradise.

“You chose the club, Steele,” she said quietly. “Don’t lie to yourself or me. That isn’t going to do us any good.”

There was something about the new version of Breezy that appealed to him even more than before. In that moment, he realized his woman had lived the same life he had. Not, obviously, with sexual predators when she was a child, but as a teenager. She’d still been beaten while she’d been young. She’d learned survival skills, just as he had. She knew when to go silent. She knew when to keep her head down. She knew how to make a drug deal and keep from getting killed.

She had done all that, but she’d never learned social skills or how to survive in the outside world—in a completely different environment. But Breezy had adapted because she was a survivor, and she’d done it on her own, needing to provide for a baby. She was quiet still, not belligerent, not accusing, just stating the facts. And they were facts—as she saw them. He had chosen the club, but he hadn’t not chosen her.

“That’s true from one point of view, Bree,” he conceded. “But I wanted you. I had no business keeping you when I knew all hell was going to break loose. I had to protect you.”

Her gaze never left his face, as if she could see straight through to his twisted way of thinking. “Then why didn’t we have a plan to meet up later?”

That was a fair question. He didn’t want to answer that one either. The rules of their club were very simple. Respect. No lies. Take one another’s backs at all times. If he wanted Breezy in his life, those rules had to extend to her, no matter how painful the telling was.

“We have a code we follow. It’s what we live by. It’s how we survived. Being with you broke that code. You were underage. I had no idea. None. Not one clue, Bree. You have to understand, that’s a sacred rule. By being with you, I fucked up worse than you could possibly imagine. It was wrong.”

She was silent for a long time. A flush slid up her face and her chin rose a fraction of an inch. “I see. Well, you don’t have to worry. I understand completely. No one wants a reminder around that they’re a complete fuckup because they were in a relationship with someone. Or a semi-relationship, whatever you want to call what we had. Well, we know what to call it—your worst fuckup.”

“Damn it, Bree, you’re twisting everything I say into what you want to hear.” Steele raked both hands through his hair in an effort to keep his hands off of her. She had always been amendable, eager to please him, to do whatever he asked. The worst was, he could see why she would think that way. He’d certainly led her to believe he didn’t want her or value the time they had together.

A faint smile touched her mouth—that mouth he fantasized over. “If you think that, Steele, you don’t know me at all. The last thing I want to hear from you is that you think being with me was the ultimate fuckup.” She rubbed the top of her knees with her chin. “This doesn’t matter anyway, the only thing that matters is getting Zane back. If you think you can do that, and the rest of your club backs you up, then we’re good.”

“It matters, Bree, because you’re going to stay here with the baby and we’re going to parent him together. In order to do that, we have to straighten things out between us.”

Her eyes flashed at him, that vivid green going crackling, like a flame that might consume him. His cock jerked hard and something inside him that had been held tight and closed since he was a child broke open. Shattered. Left him vulnerable and exposed.

Steele clenched his fists at his sides, breathing hard as he tried to work off the panic and adrenaline. Self-preservation had kicked in, and he stayed as far from her as possible. He’d always known she had the potential of crawling inside him—she had found a way to steal his heart. But this was so much more.

Now, he was aware of the difference in her in a big way. Before, he’d taken care of her. Looked out for her. Made certain she was safe. He’d been the dominant in their relationship. It hadn’t been a true partnership because she had no way of knowing any kind of life outside the Swords community and she’d stayed quiet and followed his lead. She’d been so young, and yet he’d expected her to be grown-up. By staying quiet and observing, she’d done what was expected of her, but she hadn’t participated as a partner—because she couldn’t.

He’d never been in a relationship before. He didn’t even know what one was until he’d met Czar’s Blythe. Breezy had a valiant spirit. He had seen so many children succumb to death because they just couldn’t—or wouldn’t—fight back. Breezy would have survived the horrors of the school Torpedo Ink had endured. So many others didn’t have what she had. He recognized it, because he’d seen so many die. He’d held them in his arms. He’d cried so many tears he was certain he didn’t have any left.

He leaned against the door, dragging in deep breaths, realizing that his woman would take more than he’d ever thought he had it in him to give. When he could finally look at her again, the anger was gone from her face and in its place were concern and speculation. She saw things in him he didn’t even allow his brothers to see. He’d had to be so careful, always, guarding every emotion, never letting on, even to the other children, staying very low-key and calm for his brothers and sisters, never sharing the turmoil and chaos that could rise unexpectedly. She seemed to see that in him, no matter how much he tried to hide it.

He turned away from her, knowing by her expression it was already too late. He needed to lash out, to save himself. He opened his mouth.

She got there first. “Zane is a beautiful little boy,” she said, unexpectedly, as if giving him a gift.

He reached behind him for the door. For the knob. He could take all kinds of punishment. Fists. Whips. You name it, he’d managed. But she undid him in ways he hadn’t expected and had no idea how to handle. He realized she believed she was giving him a gift and she’d done it to soothe him, the way she did all the women she’d taken care of after they’d been beaten or used cruelly. The way she’d done with the children when they were frightened. It was ingrained in her. Deep. A part of her character in the same way it was ingrained in him.

“He’s very much like you already. His personality, I mean. He’s already thinking he needs to look after his mommy. He tries to feed me with his spoon and he always shares with me. Once I tripped and fell down. Of course, I protected him, but he was so upset and kept trying to make the ‘boo-boo’ better.” She smiled at the memory.

He couldn’t respond. His chest hurt. His gut twisted. His woman. That was so like her, to try to turn things around for him. She did that for everyone. It sucked that her man was the one needing her instead of the other way around.

“I’ve got pictures of him on my phone. It’s in the pocket of my jeans if you’d like to see him. He’s absolutely beautiful, Steele.”

It was a gift she was giving him. He took the opportunity to turn away from her and find her jeans folded neatly on the chair. She’d always done that, folded everything so carefully. Once she realized it was important to him to keep his room and things clean—not just clean, nearly sterile—she’d done so. He’d bet any amount of money she kept wherever she was living the same way.

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